We have another exciting episode, this time with former Major League pitcher, former Atlanta Brave, James Parr, a great dude, someone who I have yet to even meet in person but we’ve really built this relationship up over the last year. Pretty much through social media, we’ve been talking on the phone a lot a few times over the last year. I think the world of this guy, the world of what he’s doing for young athletes and as well as this Pro4mer business that he has. In the interview, he’ll go more in-depth about that and how it is serving young athletes in many states and is only going to continue to grow over time.
Being in Atlanta Braves, I don’t know what it is about that organization, but they do seem to find these genuine and incredible guys. I don’t know if they find them or if they develop them. Is it the chicken or the egg? I’m not sure. There have been so many guys that I’ve come across in my journey who just are very special people and they seem to be drafted and groomed by that organization. The Braves have so many phenomenal players over the years, especially from the pitching standpoint when you think of the Maddux and the Smoltz and the Glavine and you got Bobby Cox being the manager as well, so many great things. I’m excited to bring you another one of those, James Parr.
What I also want to mention too is getting the opportunity to serve 40 young basketball players at a high school out here in Texas. It was a true honor, true blessing. My big takeaway, when I sit down and I’ve got a couple of hours to share some of the steps and some of the principles that I’m so passionate about. Then there’s always this when you get in the flow and something new comes out, something that I’ve never said in that speech or in that setting. The flow that I got into was really talking about how we need to give ourselves more credit as athletes. We seem to live in this perfectionist type mentally, this perfectionist type state. People will tell you, “I’m trying to be perfect. I’m trying to be outstanding. I’m trying to be the very best.” To me, perfection is the lowest standard that you can possibly aim for. You already know it’s not possible to be perfect. You already know that. I see others all the time setting themselves up for failure and beating themselves up because they’re not hitting these perfect standards.
I’ll have a lot of clients who, even when they meet their expectations, they don’t give themselves credit. An example of that would be if you’re a hitter. I’ve had clients who are 400 hitters. If they go off and play in this weekend tournament and they go 4 for 10 or 8 for 20, they meet their average, their expectations. They don’t even give themselves credit, “I’m supposed to do that. I’m a 400-hitter.” If they only get a hit or two at ten at-bats, then they beat themselves up that they didn’t do good enough, didn’t well enough. They’re in this double bind situation, this no-win situation where it only leaves about 10%, maybe 5% of those times, those games, we excel, when we play better than we’ve ever played before. Then we’re okay and we’re happy and we give ourselves credit. A really interesting phenomenon that happens at that point is now you’re expectation has been raised yet again. It’s even higher now. Now, you expect to play at that even greater more outstanding level. It becomes even tougher to hit that expectation as well.
One of the things that I’ve taught so many, and I talked for a long time to this big group in Texas about, is their GPA. Not your school, not your academic GPA. Finding, making a daily habit, writing it down if it need be. Writing it down makes it even more powerful. It’s going to help you stick to this habit. It’s going to make it more real. Write down one thing that you’re grateful for. Sometimes I give the suggestion, “Write down one thing you’re grateful for that you have no control over getting.” It was just a blessing. It was a gift. It was a coincidence. So grateful when things just seem to magically line up right or they’re divinely blessed. What’s one thing that you can be grateful for? Think about your heart. You did nothing to deserve or earn this heart. It was given to you. As long as your heart beats, there’s a purpose to live your life.
The P for GPA is something that you’re proud about. I’ll challenge you, don’t always make it about things that you’re proud about that you achieved or that you accomplished. Feel proud about your effort. Maybe there’s a big goal, a big dream that you’re on this mission looking to achieve. Feel proud about the effort and the work that you put in towards it today. Even if you’re weeks, you’re months or years away from this achievement of this dream or this goal of being that person. You could feel the pride of knowing that you put in the work to get there today. Then the A, is appreciate something about yourself. I don’t know if there’s a more powerful thing that you could do. Take a moment to really appreciate the things that you like about yourself.
Every day, focus on your GPA. What that does is it builds an energy, it builds a momentum, so that when challenges, when adversity pops up, you’ve got this big energy like a snowball, it’s getting bigger and stronger every day. When those challenges, these walls come up in our path, we’re able to knock them down. It’s not going to slow us down a bit.
With that soapbox moment being over and talking about your GPA, I’d like to call James Parr up to the mound. He and I will see you on the other side.
Listen to the podcast here:
MLB Pitcher James Parr: Developing Talent
I’m really excited to have you here on the show today and excited to be able to pick your brain and see what comes up.
Thank you for having me.
The first thing I’d love to know, just hear a little more about your story, where you grew up, how you got involved in the game, and maybe some favorite ball players, teams, heroes along the way as well too.
I was born and raised in West Albuquerque, New Mexico. I played the game from the time I could pick up a bat and a ball when I was young. I remember having a huge red bat in the backyard. I think that’s where it starts for most of us who played at the level. I played baseball mostly year round. I played a little bit of Youth Football when I was young and a little bit of basketball in middle school and then didn’t play into basketball in high school just because it ran into baseball season. I knew I want to commit myself to baseball. Summer time and I guess a lot of the years’ time was taken up by baseball. Drafted by the Braves in 2004 in the fourth round. I was at a high school All American game when the draft was going on which was pretty cool. I heard the name called. There are several other guys drafted that day, big names like Dexter Fowler, Matt Wieters. I’ve lived in Orlando for about the past eight years just after my career concluded. I met some friends here, found a good church, and call this home now.
In 2004, you heard your name called. Did you listen to it online? How did you find out about getting drafted?
We were in a conference room, all the kids from this All American team. It was a national event. I remember getting a phone call from the Braves just before it was called on the radio, telling me that they were going to select me. Awesome day, it’s something you never forget obviously.
I’m curious too about Albuquerque. Do you have abnormally amazing lungs from growing up at that height and altitude?
In the southeast, it seems it’s harder to breathe here just because of the humidity. It’s following you wherever you go. One thing that I have heard from people about Albuquerque who have played in maybe the PCL Triple-A is the ball flies there. I never played in the PCL so I really don’t know the difference. It’s a big part. The Isotopes are there. It’s a Triple-A squad. It’s a big thing. Pitchers hate pitching there and hitters love it.
I don’t know the exact details or the actual height but it’s a thousand feet higher than Coors Field is what I have heard.
It’s 7,500 feet above sea level so it’s thin air. I notice it now when we go back to visit the family, my nose and my throat get dry. It’s definitely a little bit different.
It’s a launchpad. The best baseball field to hit on the planet, is in Mexico City because Mexico City is 7,000 feet in altitude too. You can launch balls in Mexico City. Mexico City and Albuquerque are two best places to hit. It’s a pitcher’s nightmare. I’m trying to think of who’s close to New Mexico. What do most kids grow up, what teams do they go for as far as Major Leagues?
I was sold on a player, Ken Griffey Jr. since I was young. I love Griffey. That built my adoration for the rest of the Mariners’ squad. You’ve got Tino Martinez, Jay Buhner, and Joey Cora, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, that team. I followed them religiously when I was a kid. I sent Griffey letters and stuff. I’m sure he never read the letter but I got this box from the Mariner one day and they sent me all these cheap goodies. I was so excited. You get a lot of guys following the Rockies and the Diamondbacks. Football-wise, I’m a Cowboys fan. My dad’s been diehard Cowboys fan since he was young and it just rubbed off on me.
You sign at a high school, is that correct?
How was that transition for you going from being in high school to being a professional ball player?
It’s a case by case basis. You have guys that are mentally and physically prepared to handle the burden of a professional season. I felt pretty confident that I was somewhat ready.
What does that entail to you, a burden of a professional season? Can you give us some examples of what can be challenging for a seventeen, eighteen-year-old kid have to deal with?
You’re out on your own for the first time. That’s one thing. You don’t have mom and dad. Unfortunate for me, my mom did my laundry until I left the house.
How is that transition of doing laundry in the professional lifestyle? Were you one of those guys who would just take the clothes to the clubhouse manager or have you ever tried sneaking them on to your laundry loop?
I am ashamed to admit but I took them to a little laundry place down the street to do it.
Other challenges that present themselves as being on your own, I didn’t know what to expect. You come to Orlando and you’re in Rookie Ball and you’re going to play at 1 PM every afternoon. It’s 150 degrees with 100% humidity. There are no fans in the Gulf Coast League and you’re playing. There’s a diverse crowd. You’ve got people from many different states and countries even, ages 18 to 23 years old. It can be a lot. At least when you go the college route, you’re with some other freshmen, sophomores, junior and seniors. There’s not quite as many kids or people to meet I feel as far as a baseball program goes in that setting.
That’s definitely a lot of great stuff off the field that goes on. How about on the field? How was that transition for you stepping on the professional field? I know the background. You’re talking about being in the Gulf Coast League. That’s not a glorious transition, number one, to begin with. Number two, I know you’re playing in the big tournaments, doing incredible things at the high school level, then you go and you play against guys who could be up to 23 years old. You’re playing now with guys who are from The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, all these different countries. How was the on field stuff for you? Was it a slow transition or something that you went out the gate and was able to do a pretty good job?
I think one of the reasons I was selected fairly high, not only aptitude and the ability to pitch, and that translated well for me into my rookie season. The playing field level is out for everybody once you get to that level. You go from high school and you’re just better than everybody. Maybe you run into somebody who’s as good as you but then you get to professional baseball and many people may not realize but everybody throws 90 plus miles an hour, the hitters. Everybody is big. Everybody can hit the ball out of the park for the most part or if they can’t, they can run really fast. The playing field is leveled. The transition for me, I had a pretty good Gulf Coast League season. It allowed me to skip advanced rookie and go into Low-A the next year. The Braves organization does a good job of getting new guys getting their feet wet. They do a good job. It’s a good organization all around. They do a good job of hiring good people.
What are the Minor Leagues where you go, you went to Low-A which by then was that Rome? I remember when I was Low-A, it was making way back in the day.
It was Rome.
Not the really cool Rome overseas.
No. This is a motel Rome. But they have a good community, a good fan base there. It was great experience as well.
What are the other stops?
Rome and then on to Myrtle Beach in High-A. They’re not in Myrtle Beach anymore. Too many kids get in trouble because Broadway at the Beach is across the park.
On to Double-A?
Double-A in Jackson, Mississippi. Triple-A, I played in Richmond briefly in 2008. In 2009, I moved to Gwinnett, which is just north of Atlanta which is convenient for the Triple-A guys.
Going through the Minor Leagues, let’s talk about bus rides and just some of these places that you go to. I know you are blessed with these beautiful towns and great places to play. But maybe some horror stories of being on the road, bad stadiums, all kinds of things. Anything that comes to mind that you can passed along?
We dealt with the bus breaking down or the AC going out, which is terrible. That’s the worst thing that could happen.
How long were you stranded for?
A couple hours, but AC going out was the biggest thing. As far as the hotels and the stadiums, for the most part, you just embrace it. The Nationals were there and just in the locker room, it was in the stadium. It was not a pretty place but that is part of the grind. It’s all part of it. That phrase, “It’s all part of it.”
I think that’s a beautiful outlook. I think that’s one of the reasons why I admire and respect you to begin with, is because you had that type of outlook where it’s all part of it, you accept it, or you’re going to make the best of the situation. I think that’s really cool.
You mentioned clubhouse, this is really embarrassing for me. Rome, Georgia, there’s a dozen baseballs on the table and there’s a note there for all the players to sign them. Nobody has signed these baseballs yet so I picked up a pen and I put my John Hancock right on the sweet spot. I didn’t know any better. Just a little while later people start coming up for me and said, “Dude, you signed in Rocket’s spot. You signed the sweet spot. Rocket Wheeler is our manager.” I signed every single baseball on the sweet spot. I didn’t know any better and apparently, that’s for the manager and the manager only.
It’s part of the professional learning curve right there.
It is. I had no clue.
All you young and up and coming ball players who are listening to this show just know that the sweet spot, when you sign for a team, is designated for the manager. When I was in Low-A, I had a manager named Bill Slack and he’d been around for a long time. He played with Ted Williams. He said that Ted Williams would sign the sweet spots on the team. That it was understood that even the manager, the sweet spot didn’t belong to him. You go on, you get called up to the Big Leagues with the Braves. How did you find out? How was that moment?
We were on the plane going to Miami. It was the first place that I played out. Roger McDowell came back. He was a pitching coach at the time. He came back and said, “You got to start,” on a specific day and specific time. This applies to what you do as far as your business; just mental strengthening, your peak state, and how to be mentally strong. At the time I was called up, I was in Triple-A. I went on a streak of 30 something innings with maybe given up one run. I was on a roll. I remember when he came back and told me that, I was more excited than anything. Not too nervous just because I was in such a good spot mentally. I was confident about myself and my own abilities and to get people out at the Major League level at that point, the right time.
That’s one thing that Bobby Cox is really good about, is getting people the opportunity at the best possible point for them to succeed. That’s hard for a lot of managers to do. It’s hard for anybody to do. That’s one thing Bobby Cox is really good at.
I’ve heard you and I’ve heard other people that I know speak so highly about the Braves’ organization especially from the pitching side. What do you think goes into something like that? Is there something that you are even aware of that’s different about them and how they approach things or is it just something there they seem to be gifted with?
One thing that they did when I was there is they stress the ability to command your fastball and particularly your four-seam fastball. A lot of guys that would come in, they had two-seamers. They said, “You’re not going to be able to throw this pitch until you can prove you can command your four-seamer,” especially down on the way. You would go out, they weren’t really concerned with winning at any level, whether spring training or during the season. If there’s something you need to work on, they’d say, “You’re going to throw this and this.” The results are what the results are, but you just need to work on throwing your fastball and your changeup or doing the curveball. They weren’t afraid to let kids develop. I think that’s one of the reasons why they had success for a really long time.
Shifting a little bit more in the mental side of the game and pitching specifically. One of the things I was curious to ask you, looking at your background, a lot of time being a starter and reliever, is there any difference? I know there’s physical preparation difference, but is there anything mentally different on how you approach pitching and getting ready for the game, anything like that?
For me, yes. I think if you ask different pitchers this, they would give you different answers. Ever since I was a youth player, I was a starter. In the pro ball, the Braves, what they would do is piggyback guys. Even if the guy wasn’t a starter, they would make two guys per game basically starters. One guy would come in and throw the first four, five innings and reaches pitch count and then the second guy would come in and throw another four or five innings. One would take a throw starters are going to go and reaches pitch count then we’re going to have our sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth inning guys come in. They would piggyback us all the way up into Double-A, which is pretty high to do that. Usually, that will happen with some organizations in A-ball.
Routine is the biggest thing for a starter, what you do to prep yourself before you even get outside, stretch, warm up. As far as your warm-up routine on the field before you ever get in the bullpen and then your routine when you get into the bullpen, you have 30, 35 pitches and you do the same thing every time. There’s structure. You have five days in between starts so you’re allowed to have a routine. I started all the way through the Minor League system and my first season in the Big League. The next year when I was called up in 2009, I was put in the bullpen for the first time. For a bullpen pitcher, it’s just different for me. You’ve got to just be ready for the call at any point. That took some adjustment time for me. I’m not sure I really ever felt comfortable or got used to it. I think now that I’m a little bit older I think it would have been a little bit easier for me.
If you were to go back in time or you teach it to a young and up and coming kid, what would you suggest to them, how to approach being a reliever differently?
I would say that you’ve got to stay loose throughout the entire game as far as body goes. You’ve got to watch the game because you’ve got to know how the starter is doing. If he’s not doing well, you better start moving around a little earlier. If he’s doing well, you can start moving around fourth to fifth inning, get yourself loose. Get up there. Take your six, seven, eight pitches to get going. Dial in with your fastball, throw a couple breaking balls, get back to your fastball or your changeup and then you’ve got to be ready in fifteen, twenty pitches. You’ve got to condition yourself to be able to do that. Get up and get hot, and not going to game and sit back down and get back up, maybe sit back down and get back up. You may never get in the game. They may just say, “Get going. You may not get in the game.” While people think that maybe being a reliever is going to throw a little bit less, you can actually end up throwing more than the starter just because you can get hot. You can throw back to back days or back to back to back days. It’s definitely different.
How about when you get on the mound? I know you’re a starter, you start fresh every inning. But with relieving at the possibility of coming in and runners on the base, that’s a crucial situation, strategically, is there any difference in how you pitch as a reliever?
As a reliever at least you know you’re going to be in there for one or two innings so you can just get in there and let it rip. Throw as hard as you can. You do that as a starter and I think you run out of gas a little bit. The guys who are most impressive, like Zack Greinke in his young career, I remember watching him. He could sit at 90, 93 and just reach back and have 96, 97 when he wanted to. I didn’t have that ability. That’s a luxury. Relievers, you can go in and just let it burn. Let it rip. I think the adrenaline is a little bit quicker to get to you when you’re a reliever so you do have that natural ability to go in there and do that on call a little bit easier.
I want to ask you some questions with the work that you do with coaching amateur players and the travel teams and stuff. When you talk about composure for a pitcher, what does that mean to you? How do you describe it? How do you help young players with it?
The first thing that I try to get them to do is understand that throwing strikes is the most important thing that they can do. I try to make them really comfortable with the fact that, “You’re in control. I want you to be aggressive and you’re going to get hit around some days. I don’t want you to learn how to throw strikes because we can build and expand off of that.” I would much rather a guy go out there and throw three inning, give up five, six runs and not walk anybody than I would have a guy go walk three, four, five guys and get out of it with one or two runs or no runs. I’ve always got to develop a mindset first. I don’t care about winning trophies. I want these kids to learn and develop. Pitch with their fastballs to be honest with you; move the ball up, move the ball down, move the ball to left, move the ball to right. I don’t care if they win or lose. I’m a competitor obviously so that competitive side of me always wants to win but you have to have your priorities in dealing with these youth players. The first thing I tell them, “Be aggressive. You are the best player on the field at all times when you are on that mound.” You can see it with young guys. Younger guys tend to show a lot of more emotion. They’re not as steel faced as some of the professional guys. When things go right or wrong, you really can’t tell with a lot of professional guys. The young guys, they’re more vulnerable to showing body language and people feed off of that whether it’s good or bad. It’s contagious for players on your own team and for players on the other team. Teaching them to be aggressive is the biggest thing for me.
How about with today’s players? Is there anyone that, when you’re looking at these young kids, that you point to this player or this pitcher and say, “I think this one does it right. I want you to really pay extra attention on how they approach things,” or how they play the game? Or do you just pull up Ken Griffey Jr. YouTube highlights?
With the youth kids that you work with, you mentioned there are guys that you like today on how they handle their business, maybe mechanically how they throw. What kind of guys do you tell these young players to pay maybe a little extra special attention to that you think they do it the right way or they do it mechanically the right way, and who are those players?
I feel a lot of youth guys don’t watch much baseball these days. These kids are so unique that each person develops into their own person a little bit. It’s hard for me to say, “Go home and watch some clips of this guy.” I really don’t use it too much unless I know the kid actually watches baseball. If I do recommend guys, it’s typically somebody that maybe I played with that I trust, like Charlie Morton pitching for the Astros right now. Just all around, impressive dude with the way he throws, throws everything hard, aggressive. As far as telling these kids to go home and model somebody, it’s hard to do when they don’t watch the game.
We’ll take you back again when you were playing and you’re on the mound. The infielder boots the ball, something doesn’t work out quite right behind you, what’s going through your mind? I know you being that person who accepts and tries to find the positives in things and deal with that, how do you remind yourself? I know everyone has that initial reaction. You don’t want that to happen. How do you talk yourself through those situations to make sure that you move on, you stay clear, you separate yourself and then get back to the next moment in the next pitch?
You have to realize that you’re going to play 140 to 160 games a year, not as a pitcher but these position players that are out there. For the most part, if you’re in the Minor Leagues, everybody wants to move up to the next level and if you’re in the Big Leagues, everybody wants to win. You just have to be prepared for that to happen. You should be able to execute with the next guy up. Errors are going to happen, you’re prepared for it. You know the guy behind you has your back. You’re part of the game and part of being a professional is not showing people up. Part of not letting yourself get distracted is important to your future success after these errors have happened. If you’re prepared for it, you realize it’s going to happen. It helps you to just set that aside and be able to focus on the next guy.
Were there moments during the career where there were setbacks, adversity, situations that they were very challenging for you to go through but now that you look back and thought that was a gift. It was a blessing in disguise.
In 2010, I ended up having a Tommy John surgery, UCL reconstruction. I had anything but abnormal recovery after that surgery. They say the success rate is near 90% but honestly it’s lower than that. James Andrews’ studies have showed that. I ended up having three surgeries basically about a year apart. No specific reason why my elbow continued to hurt but it did. I was 24 at that point. You miss consecutive seasons dealing with this and you don’t exactly know why. It is a challenging time for sure, not only for you but for your significant other and families and everybody who’s pulling for you. That being said, once you get pass that, for me personally, just the burning desire to move on after your career and help people try to avoid that.
Part of why I had elbow problem was just not really knowing how much to throw when you were young or how to condition your arm. I think it was more of a chronic long-term effect that it had on my elbow into my professional career when it really started to bother me. Now, you can take these experiences and help younger kids understand what they need to do with their arms and understand that you don’t have to play baseball all year round. If you’re going to throw back to back days, you shouldn’t be throwing more than 20, 25 pitches the next day. Tell them, “When your arm hurts, it’s okay to say something. It’s okay to let your coach know. If they have a problem with it, you’re playing for the wrong person.” You can help them understand that your arm is basically one big muscle and it’s got to be conditioned. If your arm hurts, you got to check your throwing routine, your conditioning routine. Those experiences, those challenging times for me as a professional have only translated into something positive to help me educate the next generation of guys.
I know you do a lot of that with the business. First, it just popped in my head the work that you and Rick Asadoorian do. Rick had been a former teammate of mine. Did he ever tell you of back picks we used to run at first base?
No, he didn’t. Was he pitching at that point?
No. He was still in the outfield. He had absolutely one of the best outfield throwing arms, not only arm strength but accuracy. He would play right field all the time. He’d come in defense or replacement sometimes just to throw guys out. I was playing first base that year and guys would hit singles to the right field. He would just come in, and I’d cut back behind first base and he would just throw 95 miles an hour with just one hop, unbelievable, just beautiful thing and we got so many outs. It was so much fun to play with him and to do stuff like that. I know you guys are running teams together. At what ages were the players at the teams?
We do this seasonally based on opportunity or need right now. Right now, we’re running a thirteen-year-old group so these kids are first season. On the big field they call it the normal sized field. It’s the normal field. The other fields are the small fields. We’ve had an excellent group of kids that meshed well together, just camaraderie-wise, personality-wise and talent-wise. We’re a pretty balanced group, able to throw strikes for the most part with the bat and the ball, learn things and develop and the kids listen. I give a lot of credit to Rick for how he interacts with guys. This past summer, we ran a sixteen-year-old group. We have run some fourteen-year-old groups. These are a lot with Little League kids that we see potential in that may not get an opportunity otherwise to play some Travel Ball, which for a lot of them, it’s going to better prepare them for high school because there’s just a little bit more of a grind out in Travel Ball than there is in Little League. You’ve got to be a little bit of a harder player, a little bit more of mentally tough player to deal with some of these things out in Travel Ball, the craziness of Travel Ball.
I don’t even know from a parent’s standpoint if I’m mentally tough enough to go that route. When you talk about those different ages, is there any way that you approach things differently as a coach between the ages of thirteen and sixteen years old? Are there things that are more important for you to try and pass on to really hammer on at that age at thirteen years old as opposed to an age of sixteen, seventeen?
I think one thing that I’ve noticed about the youth game today, whether it’s a local Rec League or Travel Ball, is there’s not enough kids that are just set free to have fun. These kids, the first thing I would tell them is have fun. There’s too much pressure going on with these kids from various places. The game is hard enough as it is. Your coaches are going to put enough pressure on you as it is. Let all the other stuff go and have fun. Thirteen-year-olds that are just getting on to the 60/90 field, the game is different, it’s more complicated. We call it the great equalizer. You’ve got lead offs. You’ve got throwing out of the stretch now. You can’t get away with bad mechanics as far as throwing goes because you’ve got to make longer throws. You’re now using double cuts and having the back-up bases as pitchers, get over to cover first, all those things.
It’s a little bit more of learning the game focus for those younger ones, the thirteen-year-olds. The sixteen-year-olds, it’s a little bit more about from a pitcher’s standpoint, teaching them how to hit or where to play when they’re in the fields, mentally from a hitting standpoint. With Rick, it’s teaching them how to be prepared in certain counts or how to plan when you go up to bat. I just think when I was young, it’s so obvious to me now, but 1-0, 2-0, 3-1, 3-2 if you’re a hitter, you’re dead red, fastball. The kids, they don’t understand that. Maybe you’re professional and it comes so easy to you now, but they’ll be laid on the swing in those counts or they won’t swing at a pitcher right down the middle in those counts or they’ll take a swing at a bad pitch. You don’t see that in professional baseball much or nearly as often because guys prepare, they have a plan. With those older guys, you’ve got to get them to understand mentally how to be successful. That’s the difference right there. The mental part of the game becomes a little bit bigger once they get to that fifteen, sixteen-year-old range rather than maybe teaching them the game a little bit more at thirteen years old.
I wanted you to share with us Pro4mer. I’m curious too how that got started.
Pro4mer.com, first of all is a service that connects parents and local youth players with current and former professional baseball players for private group training. You can find a pro and book sessions online. All pros have their own unique profile and they set their own price with their own location, so it gives some freedom to set all that stuff instead of us mandating that. It’s a simple search by a zip code. We’ve got over 50 guys here in Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Dallas, Texas, Houston, Texas, a few in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Most of our work is here locally right now in Orlando.
When I was going through these three surgeries, I think when I was 24 as a pro I started to miss the game, just being around the game. I would have loved to just spend some of my free time working with kids, but there was not an easy way to connect with the people. What do you do? You go on Craigslist? Do you go work maybe under a facility but then they take 50% of your paycheck and you get to set your own schedule? I don’t like to work with people I don’t trust. How do you know who’s who? My head going through that time I said, “It would be really cool to be able to just get online and maybe search a vetted database of guys that you know you can trust. Minor League guys, Major League guys, ex-Major League guys, ex-players.” From a pro standpoint when you’re in the Minor Leagues, for the first two years you’re not making much money. They could provide a very valuable service to people while making a decent buck for themselves in the off-season, if they wanted to do lessons while making a real impact.
For me personally, looking back when I was a youth player, I really wish that I had the opportunity to work with somebody who made it to the professional level, just from a development standpoint or what to expect standpoint. When you’re a kid, I didn’t know how many levels were in the Minor Leagues. You think you just get drafted and everybody makes it to Big Leagues. That’s not the case. It’s a very, very valuable tool to people to be able to work with somebody who has a lot of high level experience. I’m big on a good mentor making a big difference in somebody’s life not only on the field but off the field.
That’s the short story of how it was born. We’ve got a good amount of business here in the Orlando area with different guys being booked for lessons. The rebooking rate is very high I will say. About 95% of the parents that booked their first lesson booked more. The hardest part of it is to get somebody to book that first lesson because there’s a little bit of a relational component that goes into this. You probably know that with your business. I think it’s difficult for parents to one, understand actually how high of a level professional sports is. Maybe people are really talented whether they make it to Big Leagues or not. You’re looking at a profile and it’s a picture with some words about a guy. Sometimes it’s difficult for parents if there’s no relational connection right there to take that step to book somebody you don’t know. You always get to talk to the guy after you book a lesson and make sure that the date and time that they booked for a lesson is good to go. You can communicate with them through email or phone before the lesson and set any concerns aside.
At least with our service, all guys have been employed by Major League organizations at one point. It is a vetted network. Hopefully, this thing continues to grow and expand and maybe can be a national tool that makes an impact for both pros and youth baseball players. There are some other services that connect athletes with private coaches. I think if you look at some of the coaches on some of the websites and you question their experience and really what they can do for your kid. I think there are more bad coaches than good coaches out there and misinformation can be really detrimental to a youth player. The number one concern for parents from Aspen Institute ESPN study is the quality and actions of coaches. With Pro4mer, we really have had zero issues with any parents complaining about any issues with any of our coaches. We offer a money-back guarantee on the first lesson. If you don’t love it, we’ll give you your money back. We do those extra things to try and give parents that extra little bit of comfort.
I definitely support that business and I love the idea of it. I think with so many baseball players, from time to time they’ll have business ideas and really great ideas in ways to helping people. Especially I’ve seen more and more today, former players, former pros, who really have great ideas for helping the youth players and youth in general. Is there anything that comes to your mind on how you’ve been able to take this vision and this idea and just continue to progress and build it? What comes to your mind when I say something like that?
There’s a risk forward when starting your own business. For me personally, just when you follow your heart and your conviction, if I was to go out and get into another career path, I just didn’t feel right about it at the time. I said, “I’m really good at working with kids, interacting with kids, translating information.” I see that in a lot of other pro guys that I know. If pro guys, you have a business idea, what I would say to people is go for it. You have been involved in a sport where you have dealt with adversity and failure. You have been in a diverse setting. You have dealt with people young and old. You have been pressured to execute. You have been knocked down but you’ve gotten back up. A lot of what Pro4mer’s based on is mentorship and the value and experience and knowledge. I would say surround yourself with somebody who’s been involved in the concept of the field that you have for your idea. Pick their brains, let them help you, don’t try to do it all yourself, and just value wisdom and knowledge. Value wisdom and knowledge, and learn, learn, learn. Go for it.
Just like you have with your business, I see such value in what you provide to parents. I’m not even sure if they quite understand how valuable your training can be as far as the mental side. We spend so much time teaching a lot of these kids the mechanical stuff and the physical side but really, if you’re weak mentally, you never are going to survive in the game of baseball or in life. I’m amazed to listen to your other podcasts and whether it’s you speaking, or Michael Young or watching Rick Asadoorian give a lesson, or one of the other pro guys, I could honestly just pull up a chair and soak it all up because there’s so much wisdom and knowledge and value that comes out of these mouths. I think it’s a great thing for these pro guys who want to get involved in business after their career and utilize their relationships that they’ve built up to make an impact on people. Do it, go for it. Don’t be hesitant and scared because you’ve been well prepared to do it.
You’ve got a lot of training from the game. The same pain you do is having perseverance, dealing with adversity. You’ve been trained to do it. I like that. That was my last question I have for you and it goes along those lines maybe you’ve already touched on it but you’ve spent so long in this game of baseball, what has that taught you about life?
It can be a long list. I’ve touched some of these things but dealing with failure and adversity is one, and being in a diverse cultural setting, how to be persistent, how to be consistent and dedicated, how to have patience, be a team player, move on and realize everyday’s a new day, and how to talk with and deal with authority or superiors, how to be a really excellent peanut butter and jelly maker, how to physically take care of your body, and realize there’s going to be ups and downs. Ultimately realize that relationships are the most important thing in life and teach people that competition regardless of what field or activity you’re doing is a good and healthy thing.
I really appreciate you taking the time. I appreciate you hanging out seeing it through. Pro4mer.com and what are all the places on social media? I know you provide great content and great instruction that other people who are listening can go ahead and follow you as well. What are the places they can find you?
You can find me on Facebook, @JamesParr or Facebook.com/Pro4merdotcom is our Facebook page. We’re not as active on Instagram or Twitter but it is @Pro4merDotCom. Follow us, support us. I will support you, Jason, in whatever you do. I think you are an awesome guy. You’ve got a great thing going. People, if you have the opportunity to take a session with Jason for the mental skills standpoint, I promise you it will help your kid. He’s a good dude. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s not a clown. He will help your kid succeed.
I appreciate it likewise. I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you for all you out there this week. I can’t wait to bring you another great episode next week. Until then, aim high, swing hard, and smile often.
James Parr is a former Major League Baseball pitcher. He was drafted in the fourth round, 131st overall pick, out of La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico by the Atlanta Braves in the 2004 MLB Draft.
On September 4, 2008, Parr made his major league debut for the Braves. Parr pitched 6 innings, allowed no runs on 2 hits, and earned his first major league victory in the Braves 2-0 win against the Washington Nationals.